Photo: sebastien b., Flickr
When you're asked to bring a bottle of wine to a holiday party the last thing you want to do is come across as cheap -- or not know anything about wine.
We're here to help with a list of wines that cost $15 and under per bottle. Our criteria is that these wines have to be quality. (In other words, no watered down or excessively concentrated vino.) We wouldn't want to cultivate embarassment on your behalf, of course!
Yellow Tail 2008 Reserve Shiraz, South Eastern Australia ($11)
Now, before you groan and state that you would NEVER bring this to someone's house, you should know that the new Reserve line is much improved. There's ample chocolate flavor on this full-bodied, fruit-forward Shiraz, which might make it a good pick for pairing with the dessert table, but there is also dark cherry notes throughout.
CJR Reginato 2008 Blanc de Blancs, Mendoza, Argentina ($15)
It wouldn't be a holiday fête without a bottle of sparkling wine, right? And with this bottle you're turning to a new region (sparkling Argentinian wines are harder to come by than those in California, or even Spain). Seventy percent Chardonnay and the rest Chenin Blanc results in a wine that's crisp and refreshing with pear and peach notes.
Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava, Spain ($10)
Another good sparkler is this one. Light, fresh and youthful, it's the perfect compliment to hors d'oeurves, whether it's basic (veggie platter, anyone?) or upscale (whatever your cheesemonger recommends). If you like a clean, citrus-y bubbly, this is it. A blend of Macabeo (50%), Parellada (35%) and Xarel-lo (15%) grape varietals were used to produce this cava. (Also see my post yesterday on Bargain Bubblies.)
Ecco Domani 2008 Pinot Noir, Italy ($12)
Normally we shy away from wines that dominate restaurant lists but in this case, the wine is worthy of swigging. Soft blackberries combine with subtle spices and bright red cherries for a winter-perfect warmer, yet it's also got a lighter body than California Pinots, and some silky elegance too.
The Blonde Bombshell, California ($11)
A pineapple nose will help you forget that it's frigid outdoors. Overall, this nonvintage white wine carries a crisp, clean style and contains floral notes too. Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Muscat grapes are used to make this wine. Because of the creative packaging -- the label resembles a classic Hollywood horror film -- this could be a nice hostess gift.
Parducci Wine Cellars 2007 Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, California ($11)
Cocoa powder on the nose does not fade -- instead, it carries through to the finish, where it silkens. Along the way, notes of blackberries and dried cherries are luscious and jammy; plus, there is a hint of mint and chocolate. (If you're celebrating with eco-minded fellow partyers, be sure to tell them that Parducci was the first carbon-neutral winery in the country.)
Cupcake Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($12)
To pair with typical party fare -- salty chips or sugary cookies -- a Sauvignon Blanc is perfect because the high levels of acidity in this white wine will stack up to all of that. Just like most Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, this one has a grassy mouthfeel with flavors of Meyer lemon, Key lime and grapefruit.